According to historical records, Nagara was once the capital of the first kingdom of South Kalimantan and was renowned for its sword making artisans. These days, the town’s prominence has faded somewhat and it’s another of the town’s inhabitants that are finding fame – the swimming buffalo of Nagara.
This small canal town sits rather surprisingly, on the Nagara River, a major watershed for the Meratus Mountains. Most wet seasons, the river swells and spreads its watery footprint for miles across the countryside, irrigating the region’s rice fields and replenishing a vast freshwater swamp nearby. It’s here that the buffalo live, spending their days grazing on lush swamp grass before swimming up to 5km home to spend their evenings high and dry on manmade timber platforms called kalang.
Watching the buffalo swim home across wetlands is a novel experience, but the outing offers so much more. The boat trips starts in the canals suburbs then along the Nagara River before heading out into the wetlands. There’s much to see along the way – traditional stilted and raft homes called lanting, brightly coloured boats of all shapes and sizes, fishermen setting their traps from canoes, villagers collecting water chestnut and superb scenery. The entire journey is truly delightful and a feast for the eyes and camera.
Nagara is located 14km north-west of Kandangan town (30min) which in turn is 127km north of Banjarmasin (3.5hrs). Travelling by private car is the easiest way to make the trip but if your budget is a bit tight, minibus public transport is available from Banjarmasin via Kandangan to Nagara. You will need to take a taxi or ojek back to Kandangan after the boat trip though as there is no accommodation in Negara and no return public transport in the evenings. Your hotel in Kandangan should be able to help you arrange the outing but if you prefer to do it yourself, head down to the either of the main bridges in Nagara and ask around the boatmen who tie up there. Expect to pay around 150.000Rp.